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Full text of "Mathematical And Physical Papers - Iii"

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the azimuth and eccentricity of the ellipse which characterizes the latter, are determined by certain formula^ which will be found in their place.
The general principles established in this paper bear on two questions of physical interest. Strong reasons are adduced in favour of the universality of the law, that the two polarized pencils which a doubly refracting medium of any nature is capable of propagating independently in a given direction are polarized oppositely. In strictness, we ought to speak of two series of waves rather than two pencils; for it is the fronts of the waves, not the rays, which are supposed to have a common direction. The other point alluded to relates to the distinction between common, and elliptically polarized light. It is shewn that the changes which are continually taking place in the mode of vibration may be of any nature, and that there is no occasion, in the case of common light, to suppose the transition from a series of vibrations of one kind to a series of another kind to be abrupt.
At the end of the paper the general formulae are applied to the case of some actual experiments, but these applications are not of sufficient importance to deserve separate mention.
1. Consider a stream of light polarized in the most general way, that is, elliptically polarized, and propagated through the free ether. Let the medium be referred to the rectangular axes of oc, y, z, the axis of z being measured in the direction of propagation. Let a and a+ 90 be the azimuths of the principal planes, that is, the planes of maximum and minimum polarization, azimuths being measured about the axis of z from x towards y. Let the rectangular components of the displacements of the ether be represented by lines drawn in the planes of polarization of the plane-polarized streams which these components, taken separately, would constitute. I make this assumption to avoid entering into the question whether the vibrations of plane-polarized light are parallel or perpendicular to the plane of polarization. If we adopt the former theory, the actual lines in the figures which we are to suppose drawn will represent in magnitude and direction the ethereal displacements; if we adopt the latter, the same will still be the case if we first suppose all our figures turned round the axis of z, in a given direction, through 90.